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Foxit's Phantom PDF Maker Is Swift, Light and Agile

By Jack M. Germain
Apr 27, 2010 5:00 AM PT

The PDF format is now the standard for publishing and print-based industries. As you would expect, numerous free and inexpensive PDF readers are available, but relatively few inexpensive PDF creator apps exist.

Foxit's Phantom PDF Maker Is Swift, Light and Agile

Foxit Phantom 2.0
Foxit Phantom 2.0
(click image to enlarge)

Word-processing programs such as Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer have features that let users create PDF documents with a Save As option. Even some Web-based solutions make opening and creating PDF files a bit less costly for non-business users. With all of these products, what shows on the screen or printed page is exactly what the file's author intended.

If all you have to do is read a PDF document, Foxit's free Reader is all you need. I prefer its small footprint and fast performance to the more bloated free Adobe Reader. Its 22 MB of space make it very compact.

But if you need a full business package to work with professional-strength documents, Foxit's Phantom PDF Suite 2.0 can be an ideal choice for an integrated document tool. You can try it as a fully functional product for free for 30 days. The US$129 price tag is wallet-friendly if you decide to buy it.

This latest version, released on April 27, has some impressive improvements over its predecessor. The Phantom PDF Suite 2.0 is a polished business-class PDF toolkit. It is a Windows platform product designed to run on Windows 7 (32-bit & 64-bit), Windows Vista Home Basic as well as Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate and Enterprise versions. It also runs on Windows XP Home, Professional or Table PC Edition.

"Phantom 1.0 was our first try in competing with Adobe Acrobat. Phantom 2.0 adds innovations," Alex Alexander, assistant vice president for Foxit, told TechNewsWorld

Out of the Box

I was in the midst of a project involving the Linux OS when I received a pre-release version of Phantom PDF Suite 2.0 to test for this review. On a whim I clicked on the executable Windows file (.exe) attached to the Foxit delivery email. Much to my great pleasure I found that Phantom PDF Suit 2.0 runs in Linux under Wine, a Windows platform emulator.

This project involved converting documents created in various file formats into PDF documents for uniformity. I needed a quick and handy way to password-protect several of the documents in the process. Phantom PDF Suite 2.0 rose to the task without a hitch.

Two things impressed me about this product almost immediately. One, it did not require much orientation to start using the package. The intuitive menu pane gets much of the credit for this. The ample features are well-laid-out in the two rows of toolbars and the top drop-down menu row. Two, Phantom 2 is jackrabbit quick.

Foxit claims that its latest release is up to three times faster in creating PDF files from other file formats. I have no way of measuring that for accuracy, but I made short order of converting a long list of files using Phantom PDF Suite 2.

Package Goods

Being a fan of an earlier version of Foxit's free PDF Reader, I took naturally to the integrated modules that is the foundation for the Phantom line.

"Phantom 1.0 follows the earlier modules of the free Reader. It is now one year old and is the most successful release. The release of phantom 2.0 brings more functionality," George Z. Gao, vice president for Foxit, told TechNewsWorld.

The goal for Phantom 2 was not to bloat it down with unused features, noted Alexander. It does not take too long to realize the included feature set provides all you need to work with standards compliant PDF files.

Feature Fantasy

Phantom's feature list is a key deal-maker. It excels in file-handling capabilities. For instance, you can create multiple files one-to-one or merge all the files into one document. A side panel facilitates drag-and-drop commands to create, reorder and view them in thumbnail sketches. You can also print from the thumbnail image as a single PDF page with a right click or a control/shift.

A useful feature is the ability to edit document properties from previous authors. Another key feature is the ability to undo/redo up to 1,000 versions. This makes it easy to save different versions under different names.

Much of the improvement in Phantom 2 is all about fine-tuning the earlier version. For example, it is easy to insert multiple pages by scanning in more documents or directly entering new content.

Document editing is a key feature in Phantom 2.0. PDF tools are typically weak when it comes to editing. Not so with Foxit's product. With Phantom PDF Suite you can directly edit content or add comments, highlights, stamps and other embellishments with the annotation tools.

Minor Disappointment

One flaw, of sorts, is the lack of a real content buffer. Sure, you can cut/copy/paste connotations, but the program only holds a single item.

I'd rather it have the ability to do what Microsoft Word does in being able to store a list of items used in editing the document. Maybe the program's relatively small footprint is the culprit here.

When I complained about that admittedly minor drawback, Gao was quick to promise that a recall buffer would be on the top of his to-do list for the next version.

Other Goodies

There is much good stuff in this release to really like. This includes the ability to insert images and videos. Phantom 2.0 supports many formats.

Just click Add Movie and the box-drawing appears to point to the location of the video. You can also drag and drop the video box to any desired location within your document.

Security is also a plus in this version. You can password-protect documents, add certificate encryption, and sign with digital certificates. Once secured, the document cannot be altered without having the security removed. You can even add a date after which the file expires and cannot be opened.

Overall Impression

Phantom PDF Suite 2.0 is a must-have addition to any office software library that handles PDF files. It outperforms similar products with its speed and feature set.

It is easy to use out of the box as well.

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